Ranjona Banerji: Not enough on heat wave

29 May,2015

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The latest count is over 2000 deaths in India because of the heat. Most are in Andhra Pradesh-Telangana but there are casualties across the nation. However, if you only relied on the Indian media to give you this information, you would have to concentrate on local media or mainstream South-based media. For the national media, 2000 deaths is a side story to all the usual political hoopla that we are obsessed with.

 

So the main headlines in print and on TV have been one year of Narendra Modi, one year of Narendra Modi, one year of Narendra Modi, Kejriwal v Jung, school board results, the President of India and Bofors, TRAI allegations against Manmohan Singh, Manmohan Singh meets Modi, Rahul Gandhi eats fish in Kerala and more along those lines.

 

Before all you defensive journalists get your knickers in a twist and mutter over stories that were carried on the heat wave please compare them to all the other headline news and you might get a chance to understand my point.

 

My case is simple: whatever you did was not enough. There has to be more to newsgathering than politics and minutiae reporting about our (I mean “your”) political heroes. And this north-south divide has surely run its course. We cannot possibly boast of how we have entered the 21st century as a nation and still determine that 1400 people dead in South India is of little concern to people living north of the Vindhyas.

 

The editors of the Dehradun edition of the Times of India for instance have decided that we who live here are not interested in these deaths at all. However, the local Garhwal Post is interested. So is the dak edition of the Hindu from Delhi, the Indian Express and of course the most news on the deaths comes from Asian Age because of its Deccan Chronicle connection. I have not noticed too many commentators and experts wasting their time on these deaths either. I may be wrong but the general feeling seems to be: if it’s hot, the poor will die and please crank up the air-conditioning. And yet, there are issues about global warming, environmental damage, increasing deforestation and development and water shortages which lead to these deaths. Are these not important?

 

Am I being unfair? In 2013, I was in England in the summer. It was blisteringly hot. Two people died from heat reactions, including one young soldier. The coverage was constant and comprehensive. I am being unfair here and making a comparison. Things have reached such a pass that you can get better news of the heat wave in India from foreign websites, news channels and newspapers.

 

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In all the massive sycophancy shown to politicians of this hue or that by journalists, you have to commend India’s cartoonists who have become our most objective commentators on life and politics. A big thank you to Keshav, Ajit Ninan, Manjul, Satish Acharya, Hemant Morparia and anyone else I have left out. I salute you!

 

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What was the Mumbai Mirror thinking? Its film reviewer gave the film Tanu Weds Manu Returns two-and-a-half stars. This is why you hire reviewers: so that they share their opinions, favourable or critical, with your readers. However, after seeing a kinder public reaction (or reading other critics?), the newspaper put out a notice saying that since people liked the film, they were increasing the number of stars to three-and-a-half! Okay, you and I can read between the lines. It had nothing to do with readers or critics. Long live marketing!

PS:  Just heard: the Mumbai Mirror reviewer Rahul Desai has quit on this issue.

 

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